890E.01/142: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul at Beirut (Gwynn)

134. Your 281, August 12, 1 p.m. The Department has issued two instructions which bear on the subject of elections in Syria and Lebanon. On April 21 [24] (Department’s no. 51) the Department authorized Engert to urge on behalf of this Government the adoption of four measures which Engert felt would assist in improving the local situation. A part of one of these measures was: “Elections could be promised to take place as soon as the military situation permits but a preliminary census could be taken now.”

On May 5 (Department’s no. 62) the Department approved Engert’s recommendation in his telegram no. 155, May 1, in which he had suggested (1) that the American Government refrain from supporting officially the British Government’s policy regarding Syria and Lebanon, which included inter alia a call for elections during 1942, (2) that he might lend his support informally to the general British policy, when occasion arose, (3) that details should be settled between the British and Free French themselves, and (4) that if his opinion were asked about some particular point he would give it without committing the Department. It is not evident, from the Department’s records, whether the suitable occasion ever arose or whether Engert’s personal views were specifically requested regarding elections.

The Department’s two instructions were drafted in the light of Engert’s telegrams nos. 135, 139, 142 and 155,45 which had given the clear impression that he did not consider elections advisable while the Levant was threatened with invasion. Since that time the military situation in the Near East has not improved. It is true that one of the considerations which has caused the Department to hesitate to comply with British and Free French requests that we extend recognition to Syria and Lebanon has been that the Governments we were asked to recognize could not claim to represent the expressed wishes of the peoples of the area. We have not intended to imply by this position, however, an opinion that elections should be held at any particular time or while the military situation was threatening. Your own views, as expressed in the second paragraph of your 280,46 have been noted with interest.

  1. Dated April 15, 3 p.m., April 18, 4 p.m., April 21, 10 a.m., and May 1, 10 a.m., pp. 586, 587, 589, and 595, respectively.
  2. Dated August 12, noon, p. 608.